TFA popularity rises

TFA
Photo by Yale Daily News.

For an increasing number of Yale students, leaving the classroom after graduation means going back to the classroom — but as a teacher.

Yale, along with all seven other Ivy League universities, ranked in 2012 as a top school contributing to Teach for America, a nonprofit that hires college graduates to teach in underserved areas. The University — which sent 35 students to TFA in 2012, out of a total 5,800 students from across the country selected from a pool of roughly 48,000 — has steadily ranked among the highest-contributing colleges for several years.

“I think [TFA’s] mission resonates with our students at Yale as a way they can have a profound impact on the lives of others, and at the same time expand their personal and professional growth,” said Director of Undergraduate Career Services Jeanine Dames in an email to the News.

Dames said she thinks TFA’s stated goals “to train future leaders and promote education across the nation” appeal to Yale students and contribute to the recent rise in TFA applicants at the University.

Overall, the number of students who joined in 2012 from Ivy League schools is nearly 50 percent higher than it was in 2008. Harvard, Princeton and Columbia sent 62, 27 and 32 students to TFA, respectively, in 2012.

The organization has grown steadily more competitive, as nationwide applications to TFA have swelled from roughly 15,000 in 2003 to more than 48,000 in 2012. According to data from Undergraduate Career Services, nearly 250 students from Yale’s class of 2010 applied to work for TFA, but only 46 were accepted to join. In general, the number of students choosing postgraduate careers in education has risen — in 2010, 17 percent of graduates pursued jobs in education, while that number was only 11 percent 10 years earlier.

Jake McGuire ’10, who declined job offers in marketing in order to join TFA as a high school science teacher, said he highly recommends the organization to Yale students, though the experience is “not for everybody.”

Jake Whitman, a former TFA corps member and recruiter, said he thinks the increase in interested students is a result of TFA’s expanded outreach efforts. But Whitman said that because TFA recruits heavier at Ivy League schools than at less prestigious ones, students at Ivy League schools are often better prepared for the application process and consequently face better chances of being accepted.

“It’s more ingrained in Ivy League schools,” he said, adding that because there is a “gathering of really high-performing students at Ivy Leagues and other prestigious schools,” TFA tends to focus the bulk of its attention and outreach on select institutions. Whitman said he is glad to see the organization recently expand its recruitment to also include “non-top-tier” schools.

Zak Newman ’13, a political science major interested in education reform, said he thinks TFA’s success in recruiting Ivy League students has largely come from its ability to “insert itself into the mainstream” of postgraduate opportunities along with consulting and investment banking. TFA is now “up there with Citibank” as an option regularly considered by students, he said.

Shanaz Chowdhery ’13, who will be joining TFA in the fall as a secondary school mathematics teacher, said that the organization’s success in recruiting rests in part on its ability to “woo” people.

“As soon as you sign up for an account, you’ll have someone who calls you and wants to schedule coffee with you,” she said.

Chowdhery added that she thinks the job security TFA provides attracts many students to the organization. She said she found out that she had been accepted to the program in November and no longer had to worry about the job search.

Rory Marsh ’13, who does not plan to apply to TFA, said he has “always been surprised by the breadth of people it attracts,” because the organization seems to offer a “unique experience, useful to people across all factors.”

Teach for America was founded in 1990 and currently has more than 10,000 corps members.

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